The Holland 100

On Saturday, I had the privilege of riding 19 miles of the Holland Hundred with my mother.

The day was meant to be 90 degrees and sunny – we knew it was going to be warm.

I’m a runner, of course, and not usually a cyclist, but I do dabble. This was my second bike tour – but Mom’s first (that I know of).

There were so many people at the starting line. I rode from home, as the start is only about 1.5 miles from my house. We met there, me, my mother, and my dad and uncle who both rode 100 miles for the third year in a row. I love the tradition that they have started.

11145902_1453076698328850_2566767946721814856_o10682264_1452676011702252_5105996644973135854_o

We all took off together, but they soon left Mom and I behind. We rode up hills, to start, and down to a flat, bumpy road. The sun continued to climb as we went along.

I don’t really recall conversations, but we talked as we went. At one point, we were chased by a lovely little golden finch and his mate. They followed us for a few miles. It was fun to watch as they flitted from plant to plant along the side of the road.

At around 9 miles we found the rest stop. A church in East Saugatuck. I rode for pancakes and darn it, I was going to have pancakes.

11037494_10101111671154297_7645650307100473900_o

We ran in to some other runner folks there – this is a big community event. It’s always awesome to see people out moving – doing anything that is not sitting on the couch.

Pancakes eaten, water bottles filled, it was time to continue on to the finish. It was a similar route back. The clouds started to roll in as we neared the finish.

We crossed the line together, triumphant. And then it started to rain. We were fortunate to get in to the finish before hand. But the clouds were cool at least!

11713783_10101111671149307_6574670902847689894_o 11698950_10101111671159287_7323735227593243952_o

I enjoyed riding with my mother. We didn’t need to ride truly fast, we didn’t need to go any farther. I am proud of her for committing to her health. Neither of us has always been healthy people. But that’s changing, and she is part of my motivation to continue. Experiencing crossing that line together was something I will remember. I am grateful for the experience. Grateful for the time together, and grateful for her motivation.

Lakeshore Miracle Run

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham

LMR

Except when it is a miracle that I finished as well as started. Lakeshore Miracle Run, on July 11 this year, is billed as “The Toughest Race You’ll Ever Love.” This is the third year I have completed this race, so at least I knew what was coming.

The race starts out on paved roads, runs back through the ups and downs of a sing track trail, and then out to the beach, and up two sand dunes, back down and out again. It truly is a tough course.

For this year’s race, the temperature actually started off a decent 60-something, as opposed to the normal 70 or 80 degree day. It was lovely. I love having this be our group run every year. It encourages those who may not otherwise try it to give it a shot.

11160679_10101105053471187_3879740798797799861_o

At about 8:30, the gun went off, and me and around 350 other folks headed off down the road. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful.

About a mile in, you find the woods, and weave around through a single track path. It’s difficult to pass back there, so running through the leaves and sticks and brambles on the side of the path is sometimes necessary. There are a few hills, but you don’t really notice them this time through.

Out of the woods, we hit the beach. The first hill up to the beach is composed of sand, and many stop to take their shoes off here. But I do not. This year, as in previous years, I’ve worn a barefoot type shoe, and getting sand in them is not really a bother.

The beach portion is an out and back. The beach has eroded quite a bit this year, so those headed out are forced to run in the soft sand, while those headed back are lucky to run in the hard pack near the water. It’s always fun to see familiar faces along the out and back part. Many high fives and good jobs were exchanged. Again, passing on the beach is difficult, as it means running through the softer sand to get around someone. The sand tends to pull your feet in step after step, making it hard to continue forward.

11713771_10101105056250617_1071333886711512284_o

At the end of the beach you make a left. This year we had to scramble up an eroded bank to get away from the water and on to the first dune. I have short little legs, and this up was a bit of a challenge.

11050692_922220424518051_3746597026262425854_n

And then comes the first dune. It’s a slog through the sand and sun. It’s fun to hear people who have never done this race before talking about it. “Oh, this is it? This is not so bad.” And “I don’t know what everyone makes such a big fuss about. This is pretty easy.”

11698549_10101105449068407_6075867202819255763_n

I just smile. This is not THE dune.

This is.

11538999_10101105056265587_7888987412475161885_o

11709994_10101105056255607_6065827878547614635_o

Yep. That first picture is taken from the top of the first “easy” dune. The picture doesn’t even do it justice. There is no running. Just a slow ascent to the top. Many jokes are made this year, and words of encouragement are bandied about as well. “It’s just a hill, get over it.” “This is the worst part, once you get to the top it’s all down hill from there” (a lie, mostly). They gift us water at the top, and the view is stunning, and well worth the hike.

11713681_10101105056056007_8304810401937466761_o

And after water and a view. It’s time to head down – one of the most fun parts of the race. The downhill is almost as steep as the up. Almost. Running down is reminiscent of being a young child and running down the dunes at the beach. Of course, instead of running in to the lake, you have to continue along the trail to the end.

11700765_10101105056065987_517883308455567160_o

You continue to run through sand for awhile before getting back to the hard packed trail.

One of the coolest parts of the race this year was chatting with a woman on the trails back to the finish. She was asking if another gentleman near us and I had done this race before. I replied in the affirmative and he in the negative. We continued chatting a bit, and it came out that I worked for Gazelle. She was quite excited by this. It turns out that she mentors for a program that helps students placed at risk to accomplish so much more than what is “expected” of them. Gazelle in Grand Rapids is helping one of her students who is looking to qualify for Boston – something someone who is considered a failure, and comes from an unhappy background would never dream of if not for her mentoring and Gazelle’s help. I love stumbling upon such beautiful stories when running with strangers. Runners so easily make connections when suffering through the same arduous journey together. It’s a common ground for conversation.

Our conversation made getting to the finish line back through the trail and road so much easier and more enjoyable.

At the end of the race, you run through the open fire hydrant spraying water across the road and in to the finish. Coming out from the woods to the road, it felt like the temperature climbed, so the sprinkling of water was much welcomed.

Shoes filled with sand, legs and feet caked in dirt, I finished.

Though I can’t find results online yet, I believe that I tied my time from last year, which is about all I ask from this race. It’s not one that is run for a PR or for a specific time. It’s one that’s run for fun, and for the love of a challenge. That, and the frozen yogurt and watermelon afterward.

11698893_10101105054124877_4959226906254696444_o

11222485_10101105055876367_6526466516254090835_o

I enjoyed Lakeshore Miracle Run very much this time around, and hope to be able to participate again next year. And who knows, maybe next time I will beat my course PR. It’s a miracle to have the courage to start, and a miracle to get up that dune to the finish, and definitely an awesome, challenging race.

Running Hills

For the last three days, I have conquered many hills – both mental and physical.

Today, as I was running up the hills on my route, I thought about how much hill running is like the mental struggle I have been trudging through the last few days.

Sometimes you slog on, uphill, battling to the top it’s difficult to take another step, but you keep going, because you can’t turn back – the only direction is forward. Your feet are heavy, your heart working hard. You want to quit. But you don’t.

Sometimes the hills are small, just bumps in the road, really. Sometimes, they are long and rolling, and other times they are large and steep. Step after step you continue forward up and over them.

Sometimes you create your own challenges – choose your own hills, place them in your path of your own volition. Occasionally the challenge is fun, and the success of cresting them even more enjoyable.

The benefit of hills is that they make you stronger. Each time you struggle up one, gasping for air, your legs grow stronger, your lungs grow stronger, your heart grows stronger.

Of course, there is the flip side as well. As soon as you do crest that hill, once you’ve struggled your way to the top, it’s a smooth easy ride. You still have to carry yourself forward, but you are no longer struggling against gravity. Instead, it is working with you, pushing you along. You can breathe easy as you make your way down the path.

Of course, there are always more hills. Up and down we trot through this journey. Occasionally things remain level – flat. Neither up nor down – hard nor easy – good nor bad.

I’m grateful that I feel as though I have come to the top of the latest hill. I hope that it’s not just more uphill on this other side. Sometimes you can see down the hill, and sometimes it’s just more uphill.

But I will continue to run forward, no matter if the hill continues up, or there turns out to be a downhill.

— — —

This is day 30 of the 30 day writing challenge. I’ve come a long way from the beginning. Will I still update every single day? Probably not. But, I have enjoyed this journey. It was a struggle to come up with content sometimes, and I don’t think that everything written these past 30 days has been a gem.

But fear not. I’m not giving up. I will continue to update at least two to three times per week. I’ve come up with a few ideas these last 30 days that I hope to put in to action.

Aside from just race updates and general writing, I hope to add a bit more.

We’ll see what the future brings!

Mood Lifters

Chocolate Chip Cookies and a good hard workout have the ability to make any day better.

Moods have a way of effecting how we look at life. It’s not that today was bad by any means. But I was lacking in sleep and needing rest, and feeling grumbly.

And then came the cookie. I baked them last night and brought them to work today- I love to bake – loads of sugar and butter and chocolate. And they’re beautiful if I do say so myself. Perfectly brown on the tops and edges, soft and chewy on the inside. A little bit of sugar in my day goes a long way. It was a treat and brought me a smile for awhile.

And of course, this evening was boot camp with one of my favorite instructors at the gym. And of course, it was upper body – my weakest area. I have never had great arm strength. I can lift so much more with my legs than my arms. I can run for miles, but my arms can only support so much. But I’m beginning to realize how important arm strength is, even to running. No, I’m not running on my hands, though that would be talent. Having a stronger upper body allows for better form when fatigued, and allows for better posture overall – which means more efficient running and efficiency for longer.

So, tonight I beat up my arms, and I beat up my core, and I ate a cookie. It was much needed.

Exercise is proven to lift mood, to brighten any dull day. And sugar doesn’t hurt either (well, except the waist line).

What do you do to lift your mood on an off day?

Challenging Myself

Today was a challenge – a challenge in finding motivation, as well as a challenge in the running routine.

With Run Streak having ended, and Marine Corps Marathon not coming up until October, I feel like I’m drifting a little bit. And that translates to the real world as well.

With motivation lacking, I find myself not wanting to do some of the things that need to get done around the house. I find myself desiring to sit on the couch instead of cleaning the kitchen, or sweeping the floors, or folding the laundry.

It’s funny, because I like having these things done. I’m much more comfortable in my home when everything is orderly. I start to get frustrated and despondent when things are not as they should be. Which just perpetuates the cycle of not wanting to get them done.

I was actually looking forward to my run this evening. To having the group to motivate me to get this run in and done, if only I had that group to motivate me at home.

Tonight was a tempo/hill workout. Tempo/hill as well, there were both involved. Tempo up the hills. Tempo down the hills. Tempo all around. It was tough, but I like to push myself – to issue a challenge.

So now I’m issuing a challenge to me here – I will begin to get things done, to make myself happy again. I will complete my workouts, and I will get my house in order.

This is my way of pushing myself – of challenging me to get it done, and do it well. I will make my lists again, I will check things off.

Tomorrow is a new day, and it begins from null. Make it worth it.

Part of the Herd

Ah the Gazelle. A light, nimble grazer of the African plains. Every Tuesday a herd of around 20-30 Gazelles meets in an alley behind some of the downtown shops. These Gazelles follow a specific route, and run together in a herd – an Urban Herd – Gazelles who run the city.

Every once in awhile, when I am not scheduled to work, I get to be part of the herd. Tonight was one of those nights.

We galloped down streets, taking in sights, chatting about life. It’s an ever changing group of people, and yet there is a central core that continues to run together week after week.

We may not reach speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour (the top speed of a Thompson’s Gazelle), but we have fun, work hard, and and support each other through many things.

This evening was a perfect evening for the herd to assemble. It was neither too warm nor too cold, the sun was shining, and the breeze was gentle. And while cars whizzed around us, and the noises of construction and people meandering and daily business pressed in, we ran as one herd –  together, ignoring the hustle and bustle.

It’s been tough not being able to join the herd often. To see, but not be able to run with the familiar faces in the safety and security of the group.

Hopefully the trend will continue and I will be able to Gazelle with them again soon.

Making Things Up

Run Streak has officially been over for two days now and I’ve found myself lacking in motivation. I’ve found that I should have just kept it going, I should have run Sunday, I should have done something.

Today, I was just not in the mood to get up and get moving. I felt sluggish, tired, blah. So, instead of making it to a class at the gym, I went and paddled around in the outdoor pool with my husband (and about gajillion small children). It was fun. It was at least sort of relaxing. But it was not a real workout.

Of course, by the time I got home from work this evening, I was feeling pretty bad about that. One should never miss a Monday after all.

So I made up my own routine, left husband to make dinner (thank you, Dear!), and headed out to the back yard.

I can tell you, that I did not go easy on myself; That I would not let myself down. I can tell you that I’ve been learning a lot from classes, and I can tell you that humidity makes things tougher.

So, for all of you looking to make up your own workout here’s what  you do:

Pick exercises that are simple, pick things that you know. Lunges, Squats, Pushups, etc. All effective, all simple to remember how to do. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.

Write it down! I found that this was essential. When I started getting tried, I began to forget my order. So being able to refer to the nice white board was crucial to continuing on. You don’t have to have a white board, use a piece of paper, or whatever is easiest for you.

Find space, an even surface is best. I found that I had to keep moving my little yoga mat around because I kept rolling to one side or another when doing exercises that required me to lay down. If you are outside, find level ground if that’s at all possible. Inside may have been easier, but we don’t have AC, and as I said before, it was about a million percent humid tonight, so I dealt with the uneven surface.

Make it fun. Listen to music that motivates you. Push yourself, find ways to mix it up. Just enjoy it. There’s no point in being miserable doing something that you don’t HAVE to do.

This is what I made up for myself tonight.

In sets of 10:
Squats
Plyo Lunges
Pushups
Tri Dips
V ups
Bicycles (10 each leg – 20 total)
Burpees

It was pretty darn effective. It took me about 30-35 minutes to get through, with little breaks between sets. I did 100 total of each exercise. Yes, you read that right, 100 burpees, of my own volition. I chose to do them.

So, if you don’t have a gym, can’t find time to get to the gym, or just plain don’t want to leave your house – make something up! I promise you won’t regret it.

Workout